Eating well and enjoying nourishing, energizing food has countless benefits, but sometimes we need comfort food! Making your own pasta, especially with a partner or kids, can be such a fun activity for a rainy afternoon- especially when it involves no special equipment. This simple, grain free pasta is light, chewy and has all the satisfaction factor that a bowl of Italian food should, with none of indigestion or fatigue. Try it tonight, and remember to make extra for meal prep!
Prep Time: 30 minutes + 20 minutes passive.
Cook Time: 90 minutes + 5 minutes.
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes.
Makes: 6 servings.
2 pounds starchy root vegetables (I used sweet potato and taro)
¾ cup tapioca flour
¼ cup batata flour (tigernut or plantain would be preferred alternatives)
1 large egg lightly beaten
1 tsp sea salt
4 Tablespoons of Macadamia nut oil (divided)
1 cup baby arugula
1 cup young green peas
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
2 cloves garlic
Juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup olive oil
The base of this pasta is root vegetables that are starchy and dry, so that the end result is light, fluffy and not gummy. In traditional gnocchi, russet potatoes are the usual choice because they have the perfect texture once baked. If you were to boil the potatoes they would have too much moisture and less starch, so we want to bake them if at all possible. This takes more time, but at least it is a passive process! Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Pierce two medium/large sweet potatoes (or other root vegetables of choice) all over with a fork to allow an outlet for the steam. Wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil to keep them from drying out and place them on the middle rack of your oven. Bake them for 60-90 minutes, rotating and turning them once halfway through. Potatoes are done when they are soft to the touch.
The pasta creation process is simple enough, but you need to pull out your artisanal, creative abilities and allow it to be fun- kind of like preschool. Create a clean workspace on your countertop, place a silicone sheet or piece of parchment paper in the center, and sprinkle it with batata flour (or equivalent vegetable flour). I used tropical sweet potato because it the most easily available.
In a medium sized bowl, combine tapioca/yuca flour and salt, set aside. You may use all of this flour or only half, it depends on the moisture of your root vegetables. Try to let go of the need for everything to be perfectly measured and ease yourself into the ability to use your sight and touch to know when the dough is ready. Add just enough flour to make a cohesive dough, while being careful not to overwork it to the point of gumminess. The goal is to have a dough that is soft and supple, and just a little but sticky.
Remove the potatoes from the oven, open the aluminum foil carefully and using tongs and a knife cut the potatoes in half. Scoop the meat from their skins with a spoon and using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut and spread small potato pieces across your clean workspace, allowing the steam to come off. The drier the potatoes, the less sticky the dough. Use your fingers if necessary to smooth out all the lumps and work the potatoes into a fine crumb.
Preparing the gnocchi…
Scoop the potato pieces into a clean bowl, sift half the flour over the potato and crack the egg over it as well. Mix together with a fork until well combined, and then use your hands to press the dough together. If you have very dry potatoes or they are overcooked the dough will be crumbly. Add water 1 Tablespoon of water at a time until the dough comes together nicely, up to ⅓ cup. This step is usually not necessary, but a good way to save your dough in case it is not coming together.
Sprinkle fresh batata flour on your work surface, add the potato mixture, and sift more tapioca flour blend over it. Use your hands to fold it together gently several times, mixing a thin coat of flour in each time. Remember the less you work the dough, the better the texture will be. Once the dough is even and supple, cut off a small portion of dough and roll it into a snake, using your palms more than your fingers. Cut into gnocchi sized segments, about the width of a fork. If preferred, hold each piece between your thumb and index finger then roll each piece of pasta over the fork tongs, pressing firmly but gently to give it the “ridged” look. Set gnocchi aside for at least 20 minutes, but for up to a few hours (if you’re making the dough ahead) to allow it to firm up a bit.
At this point you can freeze the gnocchi by putting the uncooked pasta on a floured baking tray and pop them in the freezer for at least 3 hours. Remove from the tray, portion and put in freezer bags. When you are ready to cook it, do not defrost it, simply follow the same directions as below.
Cooking the gnocchi…
When you are ready to cook them, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add half of the gnocchi to the boiling water to form a single layer in the pot. Stir the gnocchi to be sure that they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the gnocchi floats to the top of the water (after about 2-3 minutes), use a slotted spoon to remove gnocchi from the pot into a strainer. After all gnocchi have been removed, add the rest of the batch and repeat.
The next step is to crisp up the outside of the pasta. The classic recipe uses calls for the pasta to be tossed in butter. I chose to saute them in macadamia nut oil, as it is rich, nutty and a bit buttery so it makes a decadent and delicious alternative. You can however use any cooking fat you prefer. Add half the macadamia nut oil to a frying pan and once warm, add in ½ the gnocchi. Cook gnocchi on one side for about 5 minutes until golden-brown. Flip and cook another 3-5 minutes on the second side until golden brown.
For the sauce…
At this point add any sauce you like to your gnocchi and serve warm. I made a simple arugula sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients in the blender and pulsing until smooth. The lemon brightens the sauce, the peppery bitterness of the arugula compliments the mild taste of the pasta, and the green peas add a subtle sweetness. If you don’t have sweet peas, avocado makes a nice substitute. Once your sauce is finished, toss it with your gnocchi and sprinkle on some baby arugula ribbons and chives to finish.